Riha came out with an edible plate made of millet flour,
reinforced with a paste made from a variety of herbs.
By Yoginder Sikand
Riha worked as a dish-washer in a large restaurant in a big city. He had come to the city some years ago in search of work, leaving his family behind in a distant village. He toiled hard”twelve hours a day, six days a week”and sent most of his salary home.
Riha’s work was very demanding. He had to pick up used plates from the tables and scrape off left over food into a bin. Then, he washed the plates with detergent, dried them and stacked them up on trolleys.
Riha didn’t like his work at all. It wasn’t just because it was physically demanding, monotonous and lowly-paid. It was also because he felt bad about how much water was used in the washing and all the chemicals that went into the process. Each drop of water used and every drop of chemical, he knew, was a use of the precious gifts of the environment.
One day, Riha calculated that on an average, he was using some 5000 litres of water and almost 20 bottles of washing liquid every month! What a terrible waste! He wondered if he could do something about it.
Now, Riha hadn’t gone to school but still (or perhaps because of this) he had a practical intelligence that enabled him to handle many difficult situations.
As he brooded on what damage his work was causing to the environment, he came up with a brilliant idea! An edible plate! It would solve the problem!
This thought came to him when he remembered how in his village when he was a child, sometimes they used their rotis as plates, placing the rest of the meal on them, so that by the end of their meal they had eaten up their roti-plates too, along with everything else! It was so simple and convenient! Eating the rotis that served as plates saved them the bother of washing plates before and after meals and avoided wastage of water and the use of chemical detergents!
Riha shared the idea of an edible plate with Mr.Turo, the manager of the restaurant. “Maybe we could do something like that?” Riha asked. The idea, he explained, was that the edible plates would be placed on trays and the food that the customers ordered would be served on them so that the plates would be part of the meal. “People can eat up their plates, along with the rest of the food, and so we’d be saved the need to wash up!” Riha explained to Mr.Turo.”That way, we can save on water and avoid using all those chemical cleaners!”
“That’s a super idea!” Mr.Turo exclaimed when Riha had finished. “It makes environmental and economic sense, and sounds fun too!” He encouraged Riha to develop his idea.
In a few days’ time, after some trial experiments, Riha came out with an edible plate made of millet flour, reinforced with a paste made from a variety of herbs. It looked, smelt and tasted wonderful!
Riha’s edible plates became an instant hit! Even customers who at first were a little apprehensive about the thought of eating up their plates were overwhelmed by the idea when they learnt how they could lighten their burden on the environment that way!
Riha’s invention received wide coverage in the media, which resulted in a sudden jump in the number of customers at the restaurant, attracted principally by the thought of eating your own plate, which they thought was great fun! The owners of the restaurant were of course very pleased with this development, as also with the money on water and detergent that Riha’s edible plates were helping them save.
In the months that followed, Riha worked further on developing his plates, introducing new flavours and shapes. A year later, he launched a business of his own, supplying the plates to retail outlets. Soon, he was being flooded with orders, even from distant places! Numerous restaurants and hotels were now using his plates. Many organisations felicitated him for the good work he was doing for the environment. Along with this, he was invited to speak at various forums about his wonderful invention, where he inspired others to think of creative ways to respect the environment and to lighten our all too heavy burden on it.
On almost every occasion that Riha got to speak about his plates, he would explain, “This Earth is God’s, not ours. We are”or, rather, are meant to be”mere trustees of it, for the short while we are here till before God calls us back. So, let’s use God’s gifts wisely and in moderation.”
(The writer is based in Bangalore and focuses on stories on nature, children and environment) n